It was a tense situation, and I think it’s to the BLM’s credit that they stood down. The rhetoric on both sides is discomforting: from a Senator calling those who came to the defense of the rancher terrorists, to the ranch supporters who are using this as an example of successfully using the 2cd Amendment to defend against tyrannical government. While I might agree in principle with the latter, the possibility of that rhetoric needlessly escalating a situation in the future would play right into the former’s.
There are a couple of first impressions that are striking: the little guy standing up to the bureaucratic behemoth. The very image of an armed showdown between citizens and government. An unelected bureacracy setting up little more than human cattle pens and declaring them “First Amendment Areas”. Mass graves for cattle dug by the federal government. These are the things that grab our attention, they are the easy parts of the story to have a visceral reaction to, which is probably how this has become a subject of the day. The harder parts to understand, especially if you haven’t lived somewhere where things like water rights are common topic of discussion, are just how did the legal issues surrounding the incident lead to what by all appearances looked like it was headed for another Waco/Ruby Ridge/Kent State type of militarized government forces kill its citizens.
Here’s a brief letter from a fellow NV rancher outlining the background of the controversy.
Essentially, I think what the rancher is saying is that by forcing a reduction on the amount of cattle that can graze on federally *mamaged* land, it will negatively impact the rancher’s claims to water rights that were paid for to the state.
There are at least two important issues, the focus of most of the debate is whether the rancher had a right to resist the agency’s attempt to regulate him out of business, but the one that raised my immediate attention isn’t being talked about very much: was this roundup and killing of the rancher’s cattle the proper course of action. One representative claims the BLM violated the law, that they were not authorised to act without local authority.
As far as the land claim central to all of this, here’s a statement from the rancher’s daughter:
The family purchased rights to work the land in 1887. The BLM attempted to buy the rights, but were turned down. So, is this an eminent domain case?
The mass graves for the cattle are a little disturbing, in a case full of disturbing aspects.